Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Screech Owl Lullaby

Spring comes early to the Sonoran Desert, especially during the period of unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having. With a spell of days in the 80s and nights temperatures dropping about 20 degrees, it is a joy to sleep with the French doors wide open to the fresh air and night sounds.

After turning off the light last night, I settled into bed listening to the usual chorus of crickets outside. Somewhere in the distance coyotes yipped and howled. Just as sleep was about to take me I heard it – the low hollow call of a Western Screech Owl. Its call is not a screech at all, but a series of descending hoots with the cadence of a dropped ping pong ball coming to rest. It was close, perhaps perched on the Mexican fencepost cactus just above the roofline of the covered back patio, not 20 feet from where I lay. It may have been staking out its territory before embarking on its nightly hunt; maybe calling for a mate. But the byproduct was a soothing lullaby for a tired desert dweller. After several minutes of repeating its unanswered call every ten seconds, it uttered a shuddering series of monotone notes and then went quiet – its stake claimed, prey spotted, or perhaps it simply flew away on silent wings into the night.

I slept well.